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  • Writer's pictureJoan Rothchild Hardin

Your Microbial Fingerprints

Pioneering and ever-curious microbe researcher, Rob Knight, suggests that the multitude of micro-organisms living on our hands is so distinct from person to person it could be used for identification purposes.

Knight and his colleague Noah Fierer, a Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Colorado – Boulder, examined personal computer keyboards and found microbial populations split between the G and H keys. Look at your keyboard – you use the fingers of your left hand on the keys running left from the key and the fingers of your right hand on the keys running right from the H key. Knight and Fierer found different microbes colonizing each half of people’s keyboards. Our left and right hands are each home to distinct microbial populations.

Even more remarkably, they found distinct microbe populations living on each of people’s 10 fingertips. All the keys typed by one fingertip  had basically the same microbial communities living on them and those communities were different from the keys typed by that person’s other 9 fingertips. We could also match up someone’s computer mouse to the palm of his or her hand with more than 90 percent accuracy. The microbes on your hands are very distinct from other people’s – on average, at least 85 percent different in terms of species diversity – which means that you have a microbial fingerprint.  (Knight, 2015, p.15)

Even the cleanest person is host to about 150 microbial species on his or her hands. Washing your hands removes some of this population – but it takes a mere few hours for them to regenerate.  When these tiny organisms get transferred to another surface (eg, the keys and mouse of your computer), they can thrive there relatively unchanged for weeks. (, 2015)

So one of these days look for crime scene investigators to make use of these bacterial fingerprints to figure out exactly who was at a crime scene!

REFERENCES (2015). More Accurate Than DNA: Hand Germs Could ID Criminals. See: Knight, R. (2015). Follow Your Gut: The Enormous Impact of Tiny Microbes. See: © Copyright 2015 Joan Rothchild Hardin. All Rights Reserved.

DISCLAIMER:  Nothing on this site or blog is intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.


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